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Education and Training: Advanced degree and license

Salary: Median—$69,910 per year

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Chiropractors are alternative health care practitioners who diagnose and treat health problems associated with the muscular, nervous, and skeletal systems. Chiropractic philosophy holds that interference with these systems impairs the body's normal functions and lowers its resistance to disease. A main tenet of chiropractic philosophy is that dysfunction of the spine (the nerve cord that runs down the back) or vertebral column (the bones that surround that cord) alters many important body functions. In addition, skeletal "imbalance," especially in the vertebral column, can cause pain.

Chiropracters treat patients primarily by manipulating parts of the body, especially the spinal column. By means of this manipulation, chiropractors try to correct any disorders of the skeleton or spine that may interrupt the flow of nerve impulses to various parts of the body. They do not use drugs or surgery to treat patients.

Chiropractors use a variety of methods to learn about a patient's condition. They ask the patient questions and examine the patient carefully, determining whether body structures are out of place. They often use X-rays to get a picture of the patient's bone structure. In addition, chiropractors use laboratory tests, such as urinalysis or blood tests, as well as instruments, such as stethoscopes, to diagnose disorders. However, some patients need drugs, surgery, psychiatry, and other types of treatment that chiropractors do not provide. Chiropractors refer these patients to physicians.

In addition to performing manipulations, chiropractors treat patients with light, heat, cold, water, exercise, or other forms of physical therapy. In addition, chiropractors often advise their patients about diet and mental outlook to help promote good health.

Most chiropractors have private practices or share practice ownership with other chiropractors. Some teach chiropractic or do research in hospitals, clinics, health agencies, or private industry. Many chiropractors specialize in areas such as athletic injuries, diseases of children and women, and X-ray diagnoses.

Education and Training Requirements

Students usually need two years of college before they can enroll in a chiropractic college, but some states and schools require four years. They should take courses in science and other subjects required by the chiropractic college that they want to attend. After completing a four-year program in a chiropractic college, graduates receive a doctor of chiropractic (D.C.) degree. All states require that chiropractors be licensed. Requirements vary, however, from state to state. In all states chiropractors must pass a state board examination. In some states they must also pass a test in basic science.

Getting the Job

Nearly all newly licensed chiropractors enter private practice. Some of them open their own offices right away. Others buy an established practice from a chiropractor who is retiring. Still others join the office of a practicing chiropractor to get experience. Chiropractic colleges can provide information about setting up a practice.

Some chiropractors have salaried jobs in clinics, chiropractic colleges, or private industry. Job openings of this kind can be found through the want ads of newspapers, Internet job banks, or in professional publications.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Chiropractors usually advance by building their practices. The degree of their success depends on their skill and location as well as other factors. Some chiropractors advance by moving into high-level jobs in teaching, research, or administration.

The employment outlook is expected to grow faster than the average through the year 2014 due to growing use of chiropractic services. Demand for chiropractors is related to the ability of patients to pay, either directly or through health insurance, and to public acceptance of the profession, which is growing. However, more people are going into this field. There may be competition for jobs in some geographical areas.

Working Conditions

Chiropractors usually work in pleasant offices. If they are in private practice, they can set their own hours. To be successful, they need to have a good business sense and self-discipline. They should be able to work with all kinds of people. Chiropractors must also be able to work well with their hands.

Where to Go for More Information

American Chiropractic Association
1701 Clarendon Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22209
(800) 986-4636

International Chiropractors Association
1110 N. Glebe Rd., Ste. 650
Arlington, VA 22201
(800) 423-4690

Earnings and Benefits

The earnings of chiropractors vary greatly. The median annual salary was $69,910 in 2004. Since chiropractors are usually self-employed, they must provide their own benefits, such as pension funds and insurance policies.

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